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Black Thursday

Black_Thursday21.jpgMajor George Ott , 92nd bomb group 325th squadron, was deputy mission leader for Mission 115 to the VKW  Ball bearing plants at Schweinfurt, Germany on October 14, 1943.  For this mission, George and his crew of nine were assigned a brand new B-17F S/N 42-30387.  This bomber had just been delivered and was in its natural aluminum finish.  There was no time to give it its olive drab paint job or add its squadron call letters of JW O.

All that was done for identification was to hastily paint the bomb group triangle B on the vertical tail surface.  ( This probably was not the case, after some research I found this plane was delivered in August of 43 and had been on quite a few missions already.  This was at a time when some of the planes were not painted, it was realized that savings in weight and aerodynamics were more important than camouflage.)

Mission 115 to Schweinfurt sent 266 bombers into the jaws of the Luftwaffe with no fighter escort.   Me 109s and Fw 190 dayfighters, Ju 88cs and Me110s of the Nachtjagdgruppen and the Zerstorergruppen’s Me 110G-2s and Me 410s which fired Wfr.Gr 21 rockets and 30-mm and 37-mm cannon.  West of Schweinfurt, Major Ott’s B-17 was attacked from 2 o’clock low by a Me 109G with 20-mm cannon.  Ott’s bombardier was killed instantly, the #3 engine was knocked out, and the outboard fuel tank beside the #1 engine caught fire.  Ott’s B-17 dropped out of formation and salvoed all the bombs.  Ott ordered his remaining eight crew members to bale out as he held the plane steady.

The engineer, top turret gunner T/Sgt. Raymond Hottenstein got out of his turret and backed George up.  The copilot was just a young kid and this was his first mission, he had bailed out already.  Ray watched the engine gauges and airplane functions as George kept control of the plane.  Finally the only ones left aboard were George and Ray.  George reached back and pulled off Ray’s oxygen mask, headset mike cable and told Ray to get going.  Ray jumped out the open bomb bay doors.
The last thing George remembered before baling out himself was a twin engine Me 410 pulling up along side.

George looked at the German pilot and gunner and they looked back, George said, “if you want this plane so bad, you can have it”, then he jumped.

George jumped out at 25,000 feet and free fell down where there was enough oxygen to breath.  He remembers opening his chute when he could see the details of the trees.

Soon after landing, he was taken prisoner by an old German soldier with a vintage WWI rifle.  George and the rest of his crew got down safely and spent the remainder of the war as POWs.  However, George’s tail gunner was killed as he tried to escape his prison camp.
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Of the 266 B-17s on this mission, 60 were lost over enemy territory with 600 crewmen missing in action.  Five bombers crashed in England, twelve were Category 3 write-offs, and a further 121 returned with degrees of battle damage that ranged from severe to superficial.  Five crewmen were dead on arrival at their bases and 43 were wounded.

Luftwaffe losses were approximately 35 out of a total of about 340 planes.

Mission 115 was the last deep penetration raid made without fighter escort.

After the war, German records showed B-17F 42-30387 crashed at Markt Bibard, Germany.  Bombardier 2nd Lieutenant Jerome S. Tiger was buried October 16, 1943 in Markt Bibard communal cemetery.

THE CREW

PILOT: Maj. George L. Ott
 CO-PILOT: 1st Lt. George L Long
NAVIGATOR: 2nd Lt. Malcom A Champagne
 BOMBARDIER: 2nd Lt. Jerome S. Tiger
RADIO OPERATOR: S/Sgt. Richard A Spellerberg
ENGINEER: T/Sgt. Raymond Hottenstein
GUNNERS:
BALL TURRET: S/Sgt. John H Benson
L. WAIST: S/Sgt. Harold W Clark
R. WAIST: Sgt. Joe Pribish
TAIL: S/Sgt. James Proakis

George Ott currently resides in Dickinson, North Dakota.

To see more about the Schweinfurt raid, look up the story “305th BG, Schweinfurt”

Prints measure 23″ by16 1/2″, Limited edition, signed by the pilot and artist, 350 S/N-$40
50 Artist Proofs-$60 + shipping       Contact the artist

SOURCES: Personal interview with George Ott, phone interview with 92nd BG historian Robert Elliot, book – “The First and the Last” by Adolf Galland, MACR- USAF

See the Story: BLACK THURSDAY, RICHARD SPELLERBERG